The most common causes of sore throat and neck pain are viral infections of the upper respiratory system such as colds, the flu, or mononucleosis. These viruses are usually treated with bed rest and lots of fluids. Another common cause is strep throat, a bacterial infection in the throat.
A cold can be caused by many different viruses, the most common being rhinovirus. A cold can sometimes cause a pain in the throat and neck. Other cold symptoms include a runny or stuffy nose, congestion in the nose and throat, sore muscles, and fatigue. There is no cure for the common cold. Bed rest and fluids can help a person recover faster, and over-the-counter pain medications and cough syrup can help relieve symptoms.
Like a cold, the flu is caused by a viral infection. The symptoms of the flu include sore throat and neck pain, as well as congestion, sore muscles, fever, and fatigue. These symptoms are very similar to cold symptoms, however, in the case of the flu they tend to be more severe and onset suddenly.
Although the flu usually improves on its own with bed rest, younger children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are at risk for complications. It might be necessary see a physician if flu symptoms are very severe or do not improve after a week or two, especially for people at high risk. A physician might prescribe an antiviral drug to help the body fight off the infection.
Mononucleosis, also called the "kissing disease," is another possible cause of sore throat and neck pain. It is also caused by a virus which is transmitted through saliva. The symptoms of mononucleosis are very similar to the symptoms of the flu or a cold. Other symptoms include swollen tonsils and weakness. Bed rest and fluids are generally the best treatment for mononucleosis, although in some cases there is a secondary infection which must be treated with antibiotics. If symptoms don’t improve in a week or two, it might be necessary to see a physician.
Many people with strep throat also have a sore throat and neck pain. The main symptoms of strep throat are throat pain, difficulty swallowing, red and swollen tonsils, fever, headache, and fatigue. Strep throat is treated with antibiotics such as penicillin. A strep infection, if untreated, can spread through the body, however, the treatment is simple and effective and so such complications are rare.